With over 6 million lone workers in the UK alone, it is more important than ever that employers establish a healthy and safe working environment for their employees. The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) defines lone working as ‘those who work by themselves without close or direct supervision’. However, Croner’s Health and Safety describes lone workers as ‘a worker whose activities involve a large percentage of their working time operating in situations without the benefit of interaction with other workers or without supervision’. This is often the definition trade unions prefer when describing these employees, as it covers a range of jobs in various different sectors. As a result, you may have more lone workers than you initially considered, and they could be at risk.
Lone workers may spend their entire working day alone, or only a small part of it. They may work alone in a fixed establishment, such as a petrol station, shop, kiosk or take away; in an office once their colleagues have left, or in a factory or warehouse. They may work away from their work headquarters in order to complete construction work, maintenance or repair; or be postal staff, social or medical workers. This list is not exhaustive, however it does serve to outline risks employers may never have taken into consideration.
Hazards which may cause risk to lone workers include:
- Accidents or emergencies which arise as a result of employees’ work and the lack of immediate acces to first aid equipment or assistance
- Inadequate provision of rest, hygience and welfare facilities
- Violence and abuse from members of the public
- Manual handling incidents
- Sudden illness
Protecting lone workers
Under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 and the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999, employers have legal duties to assess all risks to health and safety, including the risk of lone working. As well as conducting risk assessments, providing relevant training, educating and raising awareness, organisations should also consider providing employees with lone worker solutions, such as alarms, or monitored mobile apps.
Protecting your workforce doesn’t have to be expensive: choosing a discreet, technologically advanced solution is the best kind of protection for lone workers. Every employee has the right to feel safe and protected at work.